Category Archives: writing

Travel Word Play on World Poetry Day 2014

The Greek philosopher Aristotle reckoned that ‘adventure is worthwhile’, thus giving travelling the thumbs up, while Edgar Allen Poe is quoted as saying that ‘to elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.’ Both are worthwhile and both are necessary, in my books, so to give a nod to World Poetry Day 2014, I’ll share some of my favourite poems that I relate to travel.

I want to start with one that takes me back to my life in England, to a time when I’d catch myself in moments of routine and yearn for a different life, one that I hadn’t yet figured out. It’s sometimes difficult to put your finger on what you want, but reading this is a good reminder of how to feel alive, whether that be through travel or otherwise:

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones “it’s” rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know, he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

This poem, Die Slowly, reminds me of my own need to drink in as much of life as possible. I’m not sure that it is actually by Pablo Neruda, as suggested by some online sources, but nonetheless it reminds me of Neruda and takes me back some years to when I was studying Spanish, ideas of travel forming in my mind. I would read Neruda’s poems slowly in Spanish, trying to make sense of their meaning, and then look to the mirroring page of the book that my godmother had given me and read the English translation.

And this poem?  Neruda or not, I hear it. I chose to mix it up and live a little. And that included making the decision to travel and leave everything I knew behind. 

Throughout my travels I – like any traveller – have had to make choices about the howswhyswhens and with whos, and  so often I’ve had moments when I’ve thought: have I made the right decision? Robert Frost plays with this idea in his famous poem, The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This poem speaks to me about making decisions that are right for you. Have I made the right decisions on my journey? Yes, apparently. Whoever I ask says the same thing: whatever path you chose was the right one. Or neither was the right one. Or something like that.

And so during my travels I’ve immersed myself in places and experiences that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and  I’ve connected with people and situations that I might not otherwise have come across. Like with any traveller, these interactions and experiences have left deep imprints. When I take a minute, such as now, to contemplate my own journey, I can relate elements of my experience to this classic poem by William Wordsworth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

The theme, one study source states is about the importance of connecting with nature in order to understand oneself and one’s place in the universe. For me, that has often been through travel.

And those daffodils? Those moments on my journey? Each time I remember them, meditate on them, I am back there, surrounded by sight, smell, sound and sensation. Each time, I feel life. 

Have any recommendations? I’d love to hear from you. Feel like reading over a few more? Have a glance over some of these travel poems.

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Travel, belonging and reflections on home

A moment for reflection (courtesy of travel writer Pico Iyer) before the Travelola travelogues move Melbourne way.

 

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Freshly Pressed: who cares?

I do. I definitely do. And it’s not just me that cares, it seems. Many a blogger who has been fortunate enough to be Freshly Pressed echoes this sentiment.

Because being Freshly Pressed is like getting an almighty slap on the back, the sort that tells you you’re doing something okay in life (or in the blogging world, in this case).

A few days back I checked my emails and in amongst a load of rubbish I spotted ‘Congrats, you’ve been Freshly Pressed’. Really? Yes. A personally addressed email.

Turns out the girl done good.

www.travelola.org

A sweet moment

Out of 1,191,930 new posts, mine was one of ten selected by the WordPress editors to feature on the front page for that day. How the hell they found my lil’ ol’ blog, who knows?!

I read back over the post and checked that there weren’t any glaring problems. It made me giggle: here was a post that was far from my favourite in terms of creativity and flow. It didn’t even contain any of my own pictures, goddammit!

But apparently it was good enough for them and I wasn’t about to complain, oh no.

I anticipated the flurry of visitors and prepared myself mentally for any harsh criticism. Whilst the high increase in traffic and blog followers was welcome, the very real potential to be publically slated remained at the the back of my mind. But of course any nastiness didn’t come. Why should it? Feedback and banter and warmth shone through instead.

So thanks for sticking by me, previous followers and bloggers extraordinaire, and a warm welcome to all those new to my site. I’m glad you’re joining me on my travels! And thanks also to WordPress for connecting us.

After a year of blogging every couple of days, being Freshly Pressed has given me a little boost, a skip in my travel writing step, if you like. It’s a bit of recognition, something that we all crave (and I’m not kidding myself here, I got lucky).

But being selected has also planted a seed. I’ve found myself pondering on how to get Freshly Pressed again. And again. Without understanding the logic of how I was selected in the first place, this is another unhealthy focus that I think I’ll have to quit. Now.

Back to what I was doing before, then.

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World Nomad’s Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

To link in with the previous post on travelling by bus from Brazil to Bolivia through Paraguay, here is a short piece that I submitted to the World Nomad’s Travel Writing Scholarship 2012 competition:

On buses and food, and food on buses

It’s not my finest moment but it’s done now. Submitted. End of.

The biggest challenge was keeping it within the 2,000 character limit (and that included spaces) whilst still capturing enough detail.

I don’t know if it makes any difference how many people read and comment on the piece or not… some competitions seem to work like that… but of course, as ever, I’d love feedback from you (and if it’s really bad or super constructive, maybe do it on here instead!).

Not to self: never do things in a hurry.

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